Capital punishment; the death penalty
Public support for, opposition to, and
|Fundamentalists||high level of support for death penalty||oppose death penalty|
|Other evangelicals||various positions||oppose death penalty|
|More likely shaped by:||concern over criminal behavior||perceptions of the law &criminal justice system|
A serious deficiency of almost all public opinion polls is that they generally ask too simple a question: whether the subject is in favor of the death penalty or not. They rarely offer alternatives to execution in their polling questionnaires. One exception was an ABC News/Washington Poll released on 2001-MAY-2. It shows a public ambivalence towards the continuation of the death penalty. When asked whether or not they supported the death penalty, the public responded 63% in favor. This is a major reduction in support from the 80% level, seven years previously. Of even greater potential importance is that if life without parole is offered as an option, response is a statistical dead heat: 46% favor the death penalty; 45% favor life without any chance at parole. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also determined that most American adults believe that:
|The death penalty does not act as a deterrent.
|The death penalty is applied unfairly across jurisdictions.
|Innocent people are sometimes executed.|
51% of the public would support a nationwide moratorium while a commission studies whether the death penalty is being administered fairly. When they were told that just such a moratorium and study was underway in Illinois, their support rose to 57%. 5
|1988 & 1994: Federal laws: New federal laws were passed that expanded
the number of offenses punishable by the death penalty. Although there
have been no federal executions for the past 36 years, 21 federal
prisoners are on death row; one was scheduled to be electrocuted in
|1999-NOV: Stop federal executions: Senator Feingold introduced bill S 1917, "Federal
Death Penalty Abolition Act" in 1999-NOV. It would prevent
any future federal executions and would prohibit the death penalty for
violations of federal law. The bill did not proceed.
|2000-JAN-31: IL temporary abolition: Governor G.H. Ryan of Illinois announced that he
will create a moratorium on executions in that state until after an
administration review of the death penalty. More
details. The Illinois Legislature finally abolished the death penalty in 2011.
|2000-APR: Letter to the President: A number of religious groups wrote a letter to
President Clinton calling on him to declare a moratorium on the
federal death penalty.
2000-APR: Bill introduced: According to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Washington Office for Faith in Action, Senators Feingold (WI) and Levin (MI)
"... introduced S 2463, a bill which would immediately suspend executions in the United States while a national commission reviews the administration of the death penalty. The moratorium would bar execution of individuals sentenced under either state or federal statutes. Currently 38 states have death penalty statutes on the books."The bill did not proceed. 6
|2005-NOV-07: Catholic bishops heavily promoting end to death penalty: According to ReligionLink: "U.S. Catholic bishops say they want to 'seize a new moment and new momentum' in their 25-year campaign against capital punishment. They're set to approve a new statement urging an end to the death penalty at their Nov. 14-17 meeting at a time when advocates on both sides of the issue say that opinions are more in flux than they have been in years." 7|
On 2000-JAN-31, Governor G.H. Ryan of Illinois announced a moratorium on executions in that state until after an administration review of the death penalty is completed. More details.
During 2000-SEP, The Texas Civil Rights Project issued a report which called for a moratorium on executions in that state until changes can be made to the system. They recommended:
|Changes to the selection process for defense attorneys. The American
Bar Association has established standards in this area which require
lawyers to have at least five years experience, and training in defense of
|Defense attorneys should be paid at close to the market rates.
|Financial compensation should be guaranteed to anyone who has been
|Prosecuting attorneys should be subject to lawsuits if they concealed
evidence from the defense, knowingly used perjured testimony or knowingly
used tainted evidence. They are currently immune from prosecution.
|Creation of a life-without-parole sentence option for capital cases.
|Allow jurors who have doubts about the fairness of the system to serve in
|Not allowing crimes, that a defendant has been accused of but not
convicted of, to be mentioned during sentencing hearings.
|Consideration of the use of two juries in capital cases: one to try the
individual and the other to assign the sentence.
|Restoration of the right of habeas corpus.
|Reinstating the previous appeals legislation.
|Guarantee that the inmate receive a new lawyer for appeals in death cases.
|Guarantee DNA testing for any convict that requests it.
|Overhaul the Board of Pardons and Paroles' procedures.
|Alter legislation to ban the execution of persons who were minors at the
time of the crime.
|Alter legislation to ban the execution of developmentally disabled persons.|
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